It’s been a hectic week of Premier League action in the busy festive period with all clubs playing twice in seven days. Matchday 17 included a top of the table clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, a bottom of the table must-win game for Sunderland who faced Watford and the eagerly anticipated Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool.
Who were the top performers from the weekend’s action?
Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)
Sunderland picked up a valuable three points with a 1-0 victory over Watford which saw them move from the foot of the table and leapfrog both Swansea and Hull. Young English goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, was in terrific form yet again to keep a clean sheet and help his side to victory. The Black Cats defence have been leaking goals this season and would have conceded much more if not for the goalkeeping heroics of Pickford; he made six saves against the Hornets. With the January transfer window just around the corner, I wouldn’t be surprised to see top clubs keeping tabs on the youngster.
Right-Back – Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Tottenham maintained their winning form with a narrow 2-1 victory over Burnley. Kyle Walker was instrumental in the victory again; his form has been superb this season. The right-back delivered a low cross for Dele Alli’s equaliser which was his fourth assist of the season – no defender has managed more. Walker is a constant threat down the right with his pace and power proving to be a real handful for defenders this season.
Centre-Back – Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Manchester City came from behind to condemn Arsenal to a second successive defeat at the Etihad thanks to a much-improved second half performance. It seemed after Theo Walcott’s opener that City’s defence would crumble yet again, but the makeshift centre-back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksander Kolarov performed admirably. The Argentine made seven clearances, more than any other player on the pitch, and won 100% of his aerial duels.
Centre-Back – Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Chelsea were able to capitalise on Arsenal’s defeat by stretching their winning run to 11 games with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. Antonio Conte’s 3-4-2-1 system has looked unstoppable this season, and Cesar Azpilicueta has been a key man in defence. The Spaniard made eight clearances and grabbed an assist for Chelsea’s winner, floating a beautiful cross to the head of Diego Costa who made no mistake.
Left-Back – Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland)
It was the heroics of Pickford and Patrick van Aanholt’s third goal of the season that helped Sunderland past Watford and David Moyes praised the Dutchman for his impact he is having further up the field this season. Remarkably, Van Aanholt is Sunderland’s third top goal scorer this season and Moyes has called for his team-mates to start chipping in. Danny Rose was exceptional for Tottenham, but Van Aanholt gets the nod as no defender has scored more goals since the start of the last season.
Centre Midfield – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Key to Manchester City’s comeback against Arsenal was Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is usually as the centre of any success that City have, highlighting how important he is to Pep Guardiola’s side. His pass to Raheem Sterling for the winner was sublime, a 50-yard pass hooked into the path of the youngster. He created seven chances in the game, more than any other player, and the assist was his ninth of the season already, only Dimitri Payet has made more key passes this season than De Bruyne.
Centre Midfield – Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
It seems the penny has finally dropped for Jose Mourinho who has enjoyed success by bringing Michael Carrick into the starting XI. United have won 47% more matches with Carrick in the side compared to without him. Another victory over West Brom was a testament to his ability, retaining a 92% pass accuracy in the centre of the park. Carrick’s presence in midfield allows Paul Pogba and other creative midfielders to play much better. The Red Devils are yet to lose with the ex-Tottenham midfielder in the side.
Centre Midfield – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Another win for Chelsea and another top performance from their talisman Eden Hazard. The Belgian terrorised the Crystal Palace defence all game and was involved in Chelsea’s opener. The winger completed seven take-ons against the Eagles – no player in the Premier League has completed take-ons this season. Although he did not score or assist, Hazard was one of the best players on the pitch and continues his revival under Conte.
Forward – Alvaro Negredo (Middlesbrough)
Middlesbrough picked up a huge victory over relegation rivals Swansea at the Riverside and star striker, Alvaro Negredo, was in top form yet again. The Spaniard opened the scoring against the Swans, volleying home Adam Clayton’s cross first time leaving Lukasz Fabianski no chance. The ex-Manchester City striker bagged his brace, keeping his cool from the penalty spot to slot home his fourth goal in four games. ‘The Beast’ is key to Aitor Karanka’s hopes of remaining in the Premier League this season.
Forward – Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)
Southampton came from behind to beat Bournemouth thanks to two goals from striker Jay Rodriguez. The Englishman was in the right place at the right time to tap in Steven Davis’ cross on the line. While his first may have been a simple finish, his second was incredible. The ball ricocheted off Nathan Redmond into the path of Rodriguez who swivelled before unleashing an unstoppable volley into the top corner to seal the points and keep Southampton in the hunt for European football.
Forward – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)
We couldn’t leave out Zlatan Ibrahimovic after another sensational performance against West Brom. Mourinho described the Swede as ‘undroppable’, and the 35-year-old repaid his manager’s faith with a brace against the Baggies. The former PSG forward dominated West Brom’s defence and headed United in front from Jesse Lingard’s cross. There was a hint of fortune to the Swede’s second as a deflection gave Ben Foster no chance but nevertheless Ibrahimovic grabbed his 16th goal of the season in all competitions.
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